Michael Rosenthal

Khan survives scare to beat Maidana and keep dreams alive

Amir Khan might've saved his career by surviving the final three rounds against Marcos Maidana on Saturday in Las Vegas. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

LAS VEGAS –- When it happened, everyone watching undoubtedly had the same thought: “Uh oh, here we go again.”

Amir Khan was rocked about one minute into the 10th round by a monstrous overhand right by Marcos Maidana, one of the biggest punchers in the sport, before 4,632 Saturday night at Mandalay Bay. In an instant, memories of his devastating first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott in 2008 came rushing back.

Maidana, as vicious as any fighter, was all over his wounded prey. Khan couldn’t possibly survive two minutes of this, not with those glassy eyes, wobbly legs and reputation for having no chin.

Guess what … he did.

Khan moved as best he could, he clutched Maidana, he covered up, anything to survive. And he was on his feet, albeit on shaky legs, when the bell ended the round to preserve a hard-fought victory and his dreams of becoming an international superstar.

The scores were 114-111, 114-111 and 113-112. RingTV.com had 115-110 for Khan.

“My chin was tested,” said Khan. “… You can tell by his record that he's a strong puncher and I took everything he gave me. Those who said Amir Khan couldn't take a shot, I proved them wrong.”

Khan (24-1, 17 knockouts) controlled much of the fight with his speed and movement, as he predicted he would. He consistently landed quick combinations and then moved out of trouble before his slower opponent could react.

Thus, he built a sizable lead after nine rounds — seven points on one card and five on the other two –- and appeared to be on his way to a one-sided victory.

The problem was that Khan couldn't hurt the tough-as-they-come Argentine even though he landed 190 (of 360) power shots, the only exception being an excruciating body shot that put him down in first round.

That allowed Maidana (29-2, 27 KOs) to attack with abandon and land his own telling punches. He was able to score inside, many times with uppercuts, but he also landed some wild shots from a distance. That included the punch that instantly turned Khan’s legs into wet noodles.

The question of whether he would survive hadn't been answered when he made it to his corner after the 10th round. Freddie Roach, his trainer, considered stopping the fight during the one-minute rest period.

“I wanted to make sure his head was clear so I asked him some questions,” Roach told RingTV.com. “I thought about stopping it but I didn’t because of the way he responded. He understood the questions and answered clearly.

“… He showed a lot of heart. I’m really proud of him. He stood up well.”

Maidana won the last three rounds on two cards and two of three on the third but it meant nothing. He needed a knockout to win the fight because of the hole he found himself in after the previous nine rounds.

The Argentine lost a point in the fifth round for apparently trying to hit Khan with an elbow but it had no impact on the result. With the point, Khan still would’ve won a majority decision.

“I thought I won,” Maidana said. “I thought I did enough in the final rounds to win the fight.”

It might be an exaggeration to say that Khan saved his career by surviving the knockdown and the final two rounds but that’s not far off the mark.

Had he lost, he would have suffered two brutal knockouts in a span of two years and been saddled forever with the reputation of having a weak chin. He probably never would’ve reached the heights he and many others have imagined.

With the victory, big things lie ahead. Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions, his promoter, said Khan probably will fight in April in England. He said Victor Ortiz, who drew with Lamont Peterson on the undercard Saturday, and Zab Judah are possible opponents.

After that, Schaefer said, he would pursue a showdown sometime during the summer with the winner of the Jan. 29 fight between Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander for supremacy of the deep 140-pound division.

A victory over Ortiz or Judah and then the winner of Bradley-Alexander would make him one of the three or four biggest stars in boxing, with crazy earning power in both the U.S. and UK.

And to think … he was only one punch or perhaps some slurred words to his trainer after the 10th round from enduring another devastating setback. That’s how precarious a fighter’s position in the sport can be.

“This,” Khan said, “is boxing.”

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